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Legislators meet in Marysville for education forum

TULALIP — The Marysville School District’s “Legislators’ Forum on Education” drew State Representatives Barbara Bailey, Norma Smith, Hans Dunshee, Mike Sells, Mike Hope, Dave Quall and Kirk Pearson to the Marysville Arts and Technology High School Sept. 24.

MSD Board President Michael Kundu moderated the event, which included questions from the audience, starting with the legislators’ positions on state Initiative 1033. Bailey and Smith expressed concerns over how it might impede school budgets, while Dunshee stated, “It sucks.” Sells pointed out that Colorado had struck down a similar measure, while Hope declared this not the proper time for it. Quall agreed that it’s not the prudent way to go.

When asked about parent choice, Dunshee, Sells and Quall agreed that it currently exists with some restrictions, while Smith praised the state’s schools and home-schools for their “non-adversarial model.” Bailey stated that she believes in fair choice, pure and simple.

While all the legislators spoke in favor of levy equalization, Dunshee would not promise that opposing the reduction of levy would be his number-one priority, given the fact that issues such as health care are also major concerns. All the legislators likewise acknowledged the difficulty of providing special education, with Smith noting that both state and federal legislation govern its funding, and Dunshee proposing that its costs be socialized across the state.

When asked what cuts should be made to offset such shortfalls, Quall called for more revenue, while Bailey and Smith echoed the need for “zero base” budgeting. Hope argued that too many mandates have raised costs, and identified health care reform as a cost-cutting measure.

Darrington School District Director Tim Lovell asked the legislators not to issue any further unfunded mandates, “since we don’t have the resources to do our jobs now with what we have.” Marvetta Toler, of the Snohomish County NAACP, requested that Washington join the states which have participated in an NAACP survey measuring the achievement gap, which Quall agreed is of concern to the state legislature.

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